Limonene is one of the most common terpenes in the world. It is very common among cannabis varieties and can be found in strains of all origins thanks to extensive hybridization. Finding a cannabis strain that doesn't have limonene is actually more difficult than finding strains that contain this uplifting terpene.
Outside of cannabis, limonene can be found in citrus fruits and coniferous and broadleaved trees. Many trees produce the terpene, including red and silver maple, cottonwoods, aspens, sumac, spruce, various pines and firs, cedars, and junipers.
Table of Contents
Skip Ahead to Topic
- Limonene is commonly used in perfumes, household cleaners, food, and medicines 
- One of the most abundant cannabis terpenes and can have concentrations up to 16% of the essential oil extract of a strain 
- Benefits demonstrated in many human and animal studies
- Second most widely distributed terpenoid in nature 
- A precursor to other terpenes 
What Are Terpenes?
All plants contain aromatic and flavor producing molecules called terpenes. They are the largest group of plant chemicals, with up to 20,000 different terpenes that have been characterized . Terpenes are found in the essential oil of plants or can be manufactured as concentrated terpene isolates. CBD isolate products do not contain terpenes, which is why they do not have a very good flavor.
Some terpenes are thought to act in synergy with cannabinoids, or in a complementary fashion . Indeed, terpenes are also a large part of the experience and effects of particular cannabis strains.
Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes have a special FDA clearance called "GRAS." This means they are "Generally Regarded as Safe" in terms of consumption. Because of this terpenes can be used as common food and supplement ingredients and do not face strict legal restrictions.
What is the Entourage Effect?
The "entourage effect" is why full-spectrum cannabis products have good activity at medium doses (like a bell-shaped curve). By contrast, isolated cannabinoids generally have the best activity at either low or very high doses (like a "u" shaped curve).
Researcher Ethan Russo reviews some of the synergistic effects of limonene:
- In synergy with CBD, limonene is a potent AD/immunostimulant via inhalation
- Anxiolytic via 5-HT1A in combination with CBD
- Apoptosis of breast cancer cells in combination with CBD and CBG
- Limonene is active against acne bacteria along with CBD
- Combats dermatophytes (skin fungi) with CBG
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux relief in synergy with THC
The Benefits of Limonene
Limonene has very high bioavailability and is highly non-toxic . What this means is that the terpene is easily absorbed and utilized by the body and has a good safety profile. Those traits make limonene of interest for therapeutic uses. Limonene can irritate skin and lead to rashes, so it needs to be diluted down before using it.
Limonene is a powerful anxiolytic agent (anti-anxiety) [1, 3]. Limonene essential oil has been found to improve mood disorders like anxiety and depression by increasing serotonin in the prefrontal cortex, and dopamine in the hippocampus. Interestingly, the terpene does this by acting on a pathway called 5-HT1A, which is the same mode of action CBD is thought to utilize to produce the same effects.
Limonene has antioxidant properties that are of interest for cancer prevention and for combatting microbes like skin fungus [1, 3]. The terpene has been tested against breast cancer cells in clinical trials. While high doses were needed, limonene did encourage those cancer cells to self-destruct (apoptosis).
Limonene is suspected of having anti-inflammatory action [1, 2]. The terpene has been observed exerting this effect in many animal models. Researchers note that the terpene reduced the presence of TNF-a, a cytokine (a cell secretion that affects other cells) that instigates inflammation .
Limonene is thought to have energizing and uplifting effects as part of a cannabis terpene profile. However, the overall effects of a strain will depend on the whole plant's composition of other terpenes and cannabinoids. Limonene is not specific to a strain's geographic origin or plant appearance (indica or sativa).
Limonene Hemp Strains
- Jack Herer
- Sour Space Candy
- Bubba Kush
- Special Sauce
- Suver Haze
- Hawaiian Haze
- CBG White
- Berry Bliss
- Blueberry Diesel
Limonene Marijuana Strains
- Banana OG
- Berry White
- Black Cherry Soda
- MAC (Magic Alien Cookies)
- Purple Hindu Kush
- Quantum Kush
- Strawberry Banana
- Tahoe OG
- Wedding Cake
- White Fire OG
- Durban Poison
- Lemon Diesel
- Sour Diesel
- Super Lemon Haze
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Blueberry Kush
- OG Kush (and other OG genetics)
- Hartsel, J. A., Eades, J., Hickory, B., & Makriyannis, A. (2016). Cannabis sativa and Hemp. In Nutraceuticals (pp. 735-754). Academic Press.
- Kummer, R., Fachini-Queiroz, F. C., Estevão-Silva, C. F., Grespan, R., Silva, E. L., Bersani-Amado, C. A., & Cuman, R. K. (2013). Evaluation of Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Citrus latifolia Tanaka Essential Oil and Limonene in Experimental Mouse Models. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 859083.
- Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364.